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UN Commemorates Five-Year Anniversary of Headquarter Bombing in Baghdad


The U.N. secretary-general marked the fifth anniversary of the bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad Tuesday. He was joined by survivors of the attack at a ceremony honoring those who died and were injured while working for peace. VOA's U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer has the story by Maha Saad.

On August 19, 2003, the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was targeted in a massive suicide truck bombing. Twenty-two staffers were killed and more than 150 others were wounded. Among those killed was the top U.N. official in Iraq - Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The flag that once flew over the U.N. building in Baghdad hangs torn and damaged at U.N. headquarters in New York, where the commemoration took place. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon laid a wreath honoring those killed beneath a plaque containing their names.

A U.N. official read the names of the 22 who lost their lives in the deadly attack. U.N. officials, staffers, the Iraqi ambassador and other representatives then observed a moment of silence.

A 15-minute-long classical music piece commissioned for the occasion entitled Song Without Borders was performed to honor the work of the United Nations and those committed to its mission of peacekeeping.

Mr. Ban said the U.N. lost some of its best and bravest staff that day, but their legacy endures.

"Their children have grown without a parent, he said. Their other loved ones, many who are with us now, feel their absence every day. We, too, mourn them all. They were heroes. They faced danger to help people in need. They did their job in its largest and most noble sense."

After the attack, the U.N. scaled back its operations in Iraq, but its presence is growing once again. The organization has helped organize elections and draft a new constitution. Humanitarian agencies have helped those in need.

The secretary-general says security measures are constantly being reviewed worldwide, particularly in light of the bombing of U.N. offices in Algiers on December 11, 2007. Seventeen staffers were killed in that attack.

"We think every day about how to ensure that our staff can operate under the best possible conditions, he said. How we can provide state-of-the-art equipment, the strongest protection and the most extensive safety measures."

Since the beginning of U.N. peacekeeping operations in 1948, more than 700 personnel have lost their lives in the line of duty.

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